Horror Artist Profile: Junji Ito

It’s another year and another October here at Through the Shattered Lens. Those who have continued to follow our shenanigans and escapades here know that October is a favorite month for us here. Co-founder Lisa Marie Bowman is one who loves this month. As I pop my head in to see how things are going I would like to add my two-bits to make this latest month-long horror theme be as memorable as years past.

I begin the month-long horror celebration by highlighting a favorite horror genius who might not be as well-known by the casual horror fan. I am talking about mangaka Jujin Ito.

Junji Ito

Jujin Ito is a giant in the Japanese manga industry. His work as a horror mangaka has been lauded throughout the years with some of his more famous works getting not just anime adaptations but live-action ones, as well.

He has stated in the past that his work has been influenced by authors and fellow mangaka such has Hideshi Hino, Yasutaka Tsutsui and H.P. Lovecraft. His work shares much similar themes as Lovecraft’s in that they both tell tales of a capricious and uncaring universe where the protagonists cannot comprehend and/or escape the cosmic, unknowable horror that plagues them.

Jujin Ito’s artwork often depicts a world where it’s inhabitants (sometimes including the protagonist) body horror sometimes becomes the norm which adds to the uneasiness and existential horror which permeates his stories.

Some of his more famous works include this Tomie series which has been adapted into a 3-episode tv drama and Uzumaki which has been adapted by director Akihiro Higuchi.

The former is a long-running series about a mysterious, beautiful woman named Tomie who impacts the lives of the men and women around her. Individuals who fall under sway will commit brutal acts of violence with some being driven to insanity. It would spoil too much to mention much more, but I do recommend for those who want to check out Japanese horror and why it’s very different from Western horror, the Tomie series is one to check out.

In fact, I would recommend that horror fans check out his entire body of work. They’ll definitely leave a mark on those who try.

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Altered Carbon, Book Review by Case Wright


I grew up loving pulpy detective stories of the 40s.  Sam Spade and The Thin Man were my heroes from another time.  They dealt in visceral reality and tarnished ideals, but still meted justice to the deserving.  However, because of the mores of the time period, the more explicit side could only be implied.

“Altered Carbon” takes the Gumshoe genre mixes in the concept of a Ronin (A Japanese samurai who no longer has a liege lord and becomes a sword for hire), has the mystery take place hundreds of years in the future, but still keeps the setting of the Rainy City (Seattle, My Home) and Bay City (Future San Francisco).  What results is the greatest pulp detective story that I have ever read.  The story touches upon issues of morality and our technology stripping us naked of our humanity.

In the future, we are able to download our memories onto flash drives and re-upload them into “Sleeves” (bodies grown or bought).  Crime is punished by you losing your body and putting your consciousness on a server where it will remain for as long as 200+ years, making you return to a body not your own and family scattered in time.  We have colonized worlds throughout the galaxy and corporations and the super rich rule us all.  The wealthy are able to have unlimited bodies to download into, giving them immortality and total perversion.

Takeshi Kovac is taken out of storage by an extremely wealthy man – Lorenz Bancroft- who is over 300 years old because he wants to find out who “murdered” him.  Lorenz has his consciousness saved to a remote server every 48 hours. During the last 48 hours, he was murdered or he killed him self. He doesn’t know who is out to kill him.

Lorenz chooses Kovacs because Kovac’s is a former “Envoy” (hyper-trained marine of the future).   His senses are honed to make him a badass Sherlock Holmes!

Kovac’s mission is to dig into the underworld of the future to find the killer. The whodunnit is filled with twists, violence, and the steamiest sex scenes to print. The novel pushes our understanding what makes us human and the Id run riot!

If sex, violence, and mystery doesn’t interest you, keep browsing, but you’re making a mistake.

I’m going to be cautious about spoiling anything in this excellent book, but I will tease some more as to why it should be read.

Highschool of the Dead: Episode 6 – First Impressions

Madhouse’s anime adaptation of the the horror and ecchi manga, Highschool of the Dead, has almost reached it’s halfway point with episode 6 and this time we get an unusual balance of both those traits. The episode almost does a schizo break in and out of it’s running time. For a 3-4 minutes we get scenes of pure ecchi (softcore fanservice) that definitely panders to the puerile minds of its target audience (teenage boys and young men) which is not a bad thing, mind you. But then it’s followed up with 3-4 minutes sequences of chaotic horror.

What’s interesting was that the scenes with the student (and one ditzy nurse) survivors were all ecchi, especially the opening scene with the females in the group deciding to bathe together. Yeah, much female bathing together shenanigans ensue. This scene was lifted directly from the manga source and expands on it to the benefit of its target audience and longtime readers.

The scenes where we see the zombie apocalypse unfolding and how the horror has put both civilians and authorities on the path of breaking doesn’t involve out intrepid survivors at all. It’s almost as if this episode was the group’s reprieve before the next storm hits them which should be arriving very soon (I’d say the start of the next episode). There’s a particular scene on one of the bridges where a police barricade has been set-up that really points out the horror of the series. It involves a young mother and her young daughter (one who has been bitten). To say that this scene is not just horrific and tragic would be an understatement. I’ve always said that in stories of an apocalyptic nature one of the first thing to go was sentimentality and this sequence in episode 6 hammers on this point.

Overall, the episode was very good as usual. For fans of the manga it should be a delight to watch. For those whose experience with Highschool of the Dead has been this anime adaptation this episode may seem a tad odd in that it tries to balance both the sex and horror aspect of the series. It might be difficult for these newcomers to buy into the episode that one minute has an almost softcore, all-girl porn scene going then followed-up with apocalyptic horror then back again to softcore. Again, I will say that the series will continue to weave these two traits together and if one is still sticking with the series waiting to see if things change then they will be sorely disappointed.

Highschool of the Dead: Episode 5 – First Impressions

We’re now hitting the series’ stride with Episode 5 of Highschool of the Dead. I think any sort of introductory exposition and sequences will now be limited to recurring side characters. One of whom was introduced in this episode. I’m talking about the character of Rika Minami. She’s the friend of our intrepid little band of high school survivors, the ditzy and oppai-centric school nurse. School nurse Shizuka Marikawa looks to be settling in as the comedic release for the series’ tension-filled episodes. From the way she’s animated, her seiyuu‘s way of voicing her character to how she reacts to the going-ons around her. Even the sound-effects used to focus on her character is used for comedic-effect.

Her friend Rina happens to be one of Japan’s top police sniper and we see her in action right from the start as she eliminates all the zombies which have stumbled onto the runways of Kansai International Airport which also happens to be an airport built on an artificial island. Before anyone thinks this is a creation of the animators this particular airport actually exists. Rina continues the manga and anime’s style of drawing and animating all it’s female characters in as fanservice a way as possible. I think any viewer of this series who still objects to how the women are drawn should’ve gotten the hint after the first two episodes. If they’re still watching then they shouldn’t be complaining.

The episode was actually free of any sort of censoring from the broadcaster which is surprising since the previous four had them in some level. It seems that certain fanservice scenes can get through without censoring being used and from what I could tell the line between what will be censored during the Anime Network silmulcast and what won’t be is a very fine line.

I can’t finish this recap without pointing out that this episode definitely belonged to the series otaku, Kohta Hirano. We get to see him in action in this episode and why his very otaku nature may just keep him alive through the duration of the series. We get to see him switch from his nebbish and geeky nature to one that’s able to kill in a heartbeat. Saeko Busujima may be the more kick-ass character in this series but Kohta Hirano can definitely keep up as long as he has access to guns.

One other observation I like to make is how the anime writers continue to make Shido-san, the self-appointed leader of the other group of students, the definite human villain in this series. From the way they’ve adapted his manga character to how they’ve animated him he is one Grade-A heel who even has classic jazz porn music playing in the background when he makes of his speeches to his followers. It’s going to be real interesting how the writers and animators of the series will deal with the scene on the bus as his followers pass the time and boredom.

Episode 6 is just hours away and I’m excited to see how this series continues as it enters even heavier fanservice territory.

Highschool of the Dead: Episode 4 – First Impressions

We’re now an third into the first season of Madhouse’s anime adaptation of the Highschool of the Dead manga. The first three episodes have been used mostly as a set-up to lay out the basic premise of the anime series in addition to introducing the main players. The third episode also sets-up conflict between two groups of survivors as our students (plus one ditzy school nurse) must contend with another teacher (Shido-san) who seems to have some ulterior motives in trying to proclaim himself the appointed leader of the surviving students and faculty in the school bus which just escaped from zombie-infested school.

So far, the series has followed closely the storyline from the manga. There’s been some minute changes to character backstory and certain scenes have been extended or given more time to develop unlike their original manga. Still the writers for the anime look comfortable enough in following the manga with some fidelity instead of venturing on a different path or switching the order of story-arcs around like how some anime adaptation of manga series in the past.

If there’s one thing to take away from this fourth episode it is that the Anime Network’s simulcast of the series definitely has censored the more ecchi scenes to make them more acceptable to North American audiences. I like to point out specifically the sequence at the gas station between Takashi, Rei and the crazed human who holds Rei hostage. In the manga this scene definitely remains uncensored (though it remains to be seen whether Yen Press will keep it that way when they bring the manga over to the North American market), but in the simulcast the scene has some of the details blurred out, but not enough that the audience cannot figure out what is going on.

I definitely think that the more blatant use of fan-service deeper into the series will get the same treatment. This definitely will mean the dvd set when its released better have these scenes uncensored or there will be much declarations of shenanigans sent Sentai’s way. But now that censoring of these scenes have been established further use of it in upcoming episodes shouldn’t come as surprise so I shall keep my complaints to this recap and leave it at that. Other than that the episode was good just like the previous three and I don’t see the series doing nothing but continue to be very good as it moves forward.

Highschool of the Dead: Episode 3 – First Impressions

We’re now up to Episode 3 of Madhouse’s anime adaptation of Sato Shouji’s  and Sato Daisuke’s very popular manga, Highschool of the Dead. The first two episode have been mostly about introducing the main characters of the anime and the basic premise of the series. We now know that the surviving highschool students like Kohta Hirano, Saya Takagi, Saeko Busujima, Rei Miyamoto and Takashi Kimuro are not the only survivors still left alive in the school. Now joined by school nurse Shizuka Marikawa, these band of students and one adult are slowly finding out that it’s not just Tokyo or Japan that the zombie crisis has hit upon.

There’s a great sequence early in this third episode where we see news footage from other countries having a similar outbreak with places like Beijing and Moscow having been hit even harder by the undead plague. We learn that the United States, Europe and the rest of the world are also in chaos. I like how this sudden flood of news reports sink in for the students. For some their reaction is to try and reach their parents, while for some the cold, calculating need to survive kicks in.

One other thing this episode does well that actually improves on the manga source is setting up the rules of how the zombies themselves behave. While in the manga its mentioned that the zombies do hunt by sound. In this episode we see in one harrowing sequence just how true such an assumption was which leads to one exciting action sequence once an inadvertent sound echoes through the school courtyard.

It’s during this particular section of the episode we’re introduced to one character who will become a sort of a “foil” to our main characters. I speak of the douchebag teacher, Shido-san. We see him cruelly leave an injured student to the zombies to help him get away. He also tries to appoint himself leader of the smal group of survivors once they escape the confines of the school in one of the buses. While the zombies themselves still remain the primary danger for the series’ main characters Shido looks to be a “Manson-type” character looking to take advantage of the crisis to put himself above everyone else whether others want him to or not.

For fans of the manga the introduction of Shido-san and the bus means that it may only be an episode or two before the infamous “bus-orgy” scene shows up in the series. One wonders if Madhouse will go through with that particular scene from the manga or will they just skip over it. If they did skip over it there will definitely be many fans who will be seriously disappointed.

To close things off the series finally hits it’s stride with this third episode and it looks like it will just keep on-going full throttle from now on. As an aside for fans of Shaun of the Dead they would get a kick for a brief “cameo” late in the episode.

Highschool of the Dead manga has been licensed

The relatively successful airing of the anime adaptation of the very popular manga title Highschool of the Dead seems to have had a major consequence. The original manga has now been announced as having been licensed from Monthly Dragon Age (title’s original Japanese publisher) by North American manga publisher Yen Press. This is great news for the new fans of the anime (still just 3 episodes in but having impressed with those so far) and for the veteran manga readers who have been relegated to reading fan-translated versions of the series.

Yen Press has licensed some very solid titles from Japan and they’ve actually done a good job at bringing over these titles with as little censoring and changes to the artwork and dialogue as possible unlike some other NA publishers. I hope they do the same for Highschool of the Dead once they start releasing the first couple volumes over here in the US and Canada.

Highschool of the Dead has gore and violence aplenty which should appeal to the teenage and young men demographic the title has been targetting from the onset. The title also happens to be quite ecchi (fan-service) which makes American publishers of licensed manga nervous of late. It’s interesting to note that these very ecchi images wouldn’t be seen as too much of a problem over in Japan but here in NA where there are more puritanical groups lobbying to censor or outright ban these kind of titles then manga such as Highschool of the Dead will always have a harder time of coming over to these shores unedited.

Here’s to hoping that Yen Press does a very  hands-off approach in their handling of this popular title. It would be a shame for the title to finally be licensed but only to get the Tenjho Tenge treatment which would definitely get the title’s fans in an uproar. Hopefully, Yen Press saw what happened when CMX did that with Tenjho Tenge and just leave things well enough alone.

Source: Anime News Network

Highschool of the Dead: Episode 2 – First Impressions

We’re now into Episode 2 of Madhouse’s anime adaptation of the popular manga Highschool of the Dead. The first episode was one of the most popular series premieres simulcast over at Anime Network and with reason. This manga has gained quite the following not just in Japan, but in North America. What’s not to like about it. It has great artwork which meshes well with the subject of zombies, apocalyptic settings and, most importantly, the ecchi nature of the female characters’ designs. It’s a teen biy’s and young men’s dream manga and now it’s well-done translation into anime should guarantee that Highschool of the Dead‘s first 13-episode will be a success which can lead to another order of 13-episodes (a number that Japanese anime production houses have deemed the correct and ideal one for a series of late).

Episode 2 continues with the first one’s introduction of the premise and the characters who will be the focal point of the series. While we see the two main characters from the first episode appear in this episode they’re definitely not the focus. This time around we’re introduced to four more characters in the form of 3 females and 1 male. The lone male is a favorite character of mine and that is the gun otaku, Kohta Hirano. He’s like the geek in pretty much every anime/manga fan who finally has a chance to actually make use of a particularly useless skill. In Kohta’s case it’s the use and maintenance of weapons even to the point of creating a makeshift one out of a portable nailgun. The three new females to join Rei Miyamoto introduced in episode 1 are Saeko Busujima, Saya Takagi and Shizuka Marikawa.

Saya becomes attached to Kohta during their attempts to avoid the zombies now roaming and hunting the surviving students and faculty. Saeko Busujima joins up with ditzy and fanboy wetdream Shizuka Marikawa. Saya’s character seemed to be set-up to become the annoying one in the group in the anime as she’s shown to be bossy, too smart for her own good, but also quite helpless when confronted with danger. School-nurse Shizuka is quite helpless herself, but probably due to her being such a ditz to begin with. Of all the characters shown so far she seems to be created just to be fan-service. Not that I am complaining mind you. Now we get to one Saeko Busujima. The sophomore who also happens to be the school’s kendo club captain and champion in her own right. She’s cool, calculating and quite the badass. It doesn’t help that she’s also the hottest thing in the anime by a huge margin. The 1/8 resin and PVC figures made of Saeko are becoming as popular as another fan-service heavy character anime/manga fan know as Kanu Un’chou of Ikki Tousen fame.

The quality of this second episode is on the same level as the pilot episode and I don’t see it changing anytime soon. I do hope that these two episode will be all that’s needed by the series writer  Yosuke Kuroda to introduce the series plot and it’s characters. While I’m more than happy about the pacing of the series so far the casual anime fan who have never read the manga may get bored and move onto something else. Like any tv series whether animated or live it’s keeping the casual viewer interested that makes or breaks a series.

Now bring on Episode 3!

Highschool of the Dead: Episode 1 – First Impressions

One of the most awaited new anime series has finally premiered over in Japan this past July 5, 2010. MadHouse’s Highschool of the Dead will air in Japan but will also be simulcast in the US with subtitles. Fans of the manga can now watch the series without having to wait for the dvd to be released by Sentai Filmworks in the future.

From what I can tell from this first episode the anime seem to stay quite true to the original manga source. While it doesn’t take everything from the manga scene for scene it does keep enough of the first couple chapters from the manga to set-up the series’ premise and introduce a couple of the main characters. The two characters introduced and which the first episode spends most of its time with are Rei Miyamoto (voiced by Marina Inoue) and Takashi Kimuro (Jun’ichi Suwabe).

The episode does a good job in setting up the personal conflict between these two childhood friends. It actually builds more on this conflict and it’s backstory than it did in the original manga. Here’s to hoping that the rest of the main characters in the manga also get more fleshed out in the anime as it moves forward. But for now, I like what MadHouse and series writer Yosuke Kuroda have done in adapting the manga.

One thing I didn’t have to worry about with this series is the quality of the animation. MadHouse is and still remains one of the top animation studios in Japan and their work on this anime doesn’t do anything but continue to prove their reputation. The characters look pretty much just like their manga counterparts which is great. Not all manga-to-anime adaptations get such an accurate transfer of character designs. The look of the zombies themselves were slightly exaggerated especially once they’re on the attack. This doesn’t bother me much since it does make them more menacing than just walking corpses.

The voice-acting I have to reserve judgement on until more episodes have been aired. The intro and end credits songs didn’t stand out, but that could change in time. Some of my favorite anime intro songs didn’t become favorites right away but took time after several listens.

As for the violence the anime captures it well, but I’m a bit worried that certain scenes may have gotten censored through cleverly added animations. I will have to see how the dvd turns out and see if some of the more overly graphic killings and zombie eating people were censored for the US market or if they were animated that way to begin with. I will say that the hype leading up to this series have created a high expectations for it but from my first impressions of this first episode I will say that it more than lives up to the hype…for now.

For those who want to see the first episode as a whole should head over to Anime Network where they have them up in one whole piece instead of broken up the way they are on YouTube. Link below should provide everything.

Anime Network – Highschool of the Dead

Anime Expo 2010 Experience

This past 4th of July weekend I finally attended my very first Anime Expo over in Los Angeles. Anime Expo is considered the largest anime/manga convention in North America. It could very well be the largest of its kind outside of Japan itself. I’ve attended Anime Boston and one cannot even compare the two.

Anime Boston is pretty much a regional event for the New England region with attendance numbers ranging between 15,000 to 17,000 people for the whole event. Anime Expo is not regional but a national event with attendance numbers topping around 45,000 to maybe as high as 50,000 people. Anime Expo also seem to be able to achieve in scheduling more of the Japanese talent from Japan to be Guests of Honors. While Anime Boston will get one or two Japanese GoHs it seems to be the norm for Anime Expo to schedule between 5-8 in addition to several Japanese musical acts and groups.

This year at AX2010 the Guests of Honors ranged from anime directors and animators like Rei Hiroe (Black Lagoon), Shinichi “Nabeshin” Watanabe (Excel Saga, Nerima Daikon Brothers), Tomohiko Ishii (Sky Crawlers, Eden of the East) and Satoru Nakamura (Ghost in the Shell: SAC, Moribito) to seiyuu (voice actors) like Yuu Asakawa, Eri Kitamura, Saki Aibu and Yui Horie. The amount of such guests makes for a busy schedule and even in the four days I spent through all of AX2010 I wasn’t able to see each and every one of them. So, it ended up with myself and fellow site writer pantsukudasai56 to choose the ones we wanted to see the most. Our final choices ended up being Shinichi Watanabe (who I thought had the best guest of honor panel for how much he bullshit with the crowd really let loose), Yuu Asakawa and Yui Horie.

AX2010 also meant attending some anime/manga-related panels whether it was industry ones where specific power players in the industry showed what they had to release in the near-future to panels which showed the future of the industry. One particular panel which I really enjoyed was the Hobby Japan panel which was that companies first foray into the US to announce their plans to expand their products to North America starting with their very own anime/figure property the ecchi-heavy series Queen’s Blade. The 1/8 scale figures they showed both in their panel and in their dealer booth has become my new obsession. I need to own them all! As you can see in the pictures I took of the figures who wouldn’t want to own them all.

The highlight of my AX2010 experience as attending the free concert for Megumi Nakajima and May’n. Two Japanese singers and seiyuu in their own right. Their concert was a duo performance and sang in Japanese. It didn’t matter if one knew what they were singing about. The energy in the Nokia Theater where it was held was palpable and infectious. But that wasn’t even the highlight of the concert. The highlight happened in the very last 30 or so minutes when the secret guest performer stepped on-stage to play the grand piano that had been left in the middle of the stage for some reason. I am talking about legendary Japanese musician and composer Yoko Kanno. Her music has been a major part in influencing my love for anime from the early 90’s onward. After seeing her live and in-person the rest of my AX2010 could’ve been a disaster and it will still have been worth it.

The other half of my time at AX2010 was spent walking the dealers’ exhibition hall were stores and companies of all types had set up their booths to promote their wares and/or sell anime/manga-related items of all types. This was the room where thousands of dollars were easily spent by people within an hour of setting foot in. It was a shame I didn’t have such thousands or I would’ve needed to hire one of the cosplayers (or three) to lug my purchases around and back to my hotel room. I was able to purchase a few choice items. Even got fellow site writer Lisa Marie a couple of items I know she found to be adorable and cute.

When I and my buddy weren’t perusing the dealer’s tables I was on the look out for cosplayers (costume players) who did a great job with their costumes and who I deemed worthy of taking their pictures. I didn’t get all the best ones I saw since they were always on the move but as you can see by clicking on the thumbnails below the ones I was able to take pictures of did a great job. I fully intend to join their ranks when I attend my next con whether it be Anime Boston 2011 or Anime Expo 2011.

Now that I’ve gotten my first Anime Expo out of the way I can see why so many people love going back year after year after year since it began. It didn’t matter if one was a pre-teen just getting into the anime/manga scene or people in their 50’s who’ve been into it since the days of Speed Racer and Astroboy. The event catered to hardcore and newbie fans alike and while there were some obnoxious individuals who sometimes got on my nerves by and large they were all nice and fun to be around. Anime Expo 2010 has definitely been the highlight of my 2010 year, so far.

Highlights of AX2010

  • Seeing Yoko Kanno performing live and in-person
  • Attending GoH panel for Shinichi “Nabeshin” Watanabe
  • Attending GoH panel for Yuu Asakawa and getting autograph after
  • Attending Hobby Japan industry panel (Queen’s Blade!)
  • Attending and sitting through insane 2.5 hours of Manga Gamer’s bishoujo panel

Lowlights of AX2010

  • The autograph line for Yui Horie/Eri Kitamura line debacle
  • Several dumbass, retards in the JList bishoujo panel who kept shouting “Boobies!”
  • More than a few people who kept trying to push stupid expo memes
  • Not being able to spend as much as I wanted at the dealers exhibition hall
  • The overly pricey eating places in and around Anime Expo and hotel staying in